Monday, August 1, 2011

Pressure Cooked Congee

What is Congee? That was what I wanted to know the first time I had it. Basically it is a soup/stew whose base is overcooked rice. In spite of that description it is quite tasty. Here is how we were introduced to it the first time over 20 years ago.

Dan and I used to frequent a local Chinese restaurant. We initially went in because the clientele was largely Asian and we thought that was a good sign and we were right. We went in so often that we got to know everyone who worked at the restaurant. Gee that doesn’t sound familiar at all does it? ;-) After about a few months they told us about the second menu with traditional foods. The menu was also written in Asian characters (Chinese I think) so we couldn’t read any of it. We asked them to suggest dishes that they thought we would like and one of those was congee. We have both liked it ever since. Additionally it reminds us of long ago when we were first dating so it is now a traditional food for us.

Yesterday I was cooking chickpeas for hummus so I had the pressure cooker out. After I made two variations of hummus (lemon poppy seed and cinnamon raisin) I decided to make some congee for lunch early this week. Now I had never made congee in a pressure cooker before but I knew that is should work so I went for it. Here is what I did:

Pressure Cooked Congee
Makes 8 large servings


2 cups short grain brown rice
10 cups water
approximately 2 cups more water, though you may need more depending on evaporation
1 very large onion, finely diced (about 3 cups)
½ head garlic, peeled and minced (about 10 cloves)
½ teaspoon wasabi powder (to give a subtle background flavor)
2 tablespoons mirin (to brighten the flavor)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Combine the rice and 10 cups of water and pressure cook (on high) for 25 minutes, allow pressure to release naturally. Do not overload your pressure cooker. I try to keep mine at about 50% of its capacity for a dish like this because of the starchy nature of the cooked rice.

Now add the remaining ingredients and cook until the onions and garlic are tender and the flavors have married, about 15 minutes. You are only trying to give the base a subtle flavor but nothing overpowering. However the congee base should be a blank canvas for toppings but that doesn’t mean bland in my opinion.

You can top the congee with many possible ingredients and here are some of the options.

Possible toppings:

bok choy
bell pepper
sesame seeds
pickled ginger
low sodium soy sauce (or liquid aminos)
green onions
toasted sesame oil
sliced cucumber
diced avocado
sliced asparagus
shitake mushrooms (cooked in a little mirin and garlic)


This is a dish that most western palates find to be very bland. I enjoy it a lot and love that the base is separate from the toppings which means each serving can be very different. What are some of your favorite congee toppings?

What Do You Believe?

Last night I got an email asking me what I thought of a movie entitled “Fat Head”. Since I had not seen the movie I watched it this morning on Netflix while I was exercising. The movie is basically a moving billboard for low-carb diets. There was enough truth in the movie to make it appear valid. The problem is that there was also a lot of misinformation. When I finished watching the movie I felt as though the film maker set up to prove his point and was going to do it no matter what. One part that really bothered me was that he increased his exercise from 2-3 days a week to 6 and then claimed fast food wasn’t unhealthy. Really? Either this guy is a idiot or he thinks we are. I am not sure which one it was but either way it was an annoying movie. I do NOT recommend it.

By the time I finished watching the movie I was sad. I wasn’t sad because of the movie itself but the impact I could see it having on people who hadn’t spent as much time studying nutrition as I have. Years ago I read somewhere that "people love to hear good news about their bad habits” and I think this is very true. All people want to believe that what they are doing is right, it is simply human nature. If Dan and I had been different people we would never have been open to the radical life shifts that we made after the cancer. We both believed that a happy healthy life was possible after the diagnosis. I would be lying if I said that I was scared because in truth I was terrified. However my reaction to the situation was to immerse myself in research and learn everything there was about how to help our bodies heal.

I wanted to share this because I sometimes feel like Dan and I are surrounded by people who focus on the wrong things. Not long ago when we were talking about the boat I actually had someone look at us completely perplexed as though they couldn’t image why we would buy one. I had the distinct impression that they were thinking someone with cancer shouldn’t be doing things like that. People tend to view cancer as a death sentence and assume those we have it should go home and die I suppose. Personally I can’t imagine why anyone would believe something like that, but then again I have always been a fighter.

I believe that when we focus on what we don’t want (like cancer, a horrible job, or an unhappy marriage) we are only making those negative things more prominent in our lives. With that in mind what do you believe? I believe that a healthy lifestyle can result in better health even when the starting point is far from health (like cancer). But I also believe that we had to be willing to make significant changes to make that happen. Please tell me what you believe, or maybe what you want to believe. Life can be wonderful if you are open to the positive things in the world.

Put differently in the words of Henry Ford, “Whether you believe you can, or you believe you can’t, you are probably right.”

Happy Thoughts:

I always include happy thoughts in my posts to remind myself and you that there are many things to be thankful for ever day or our lives. Not to mention there is no downside to focusing on the good things that happen each day. Here is what I am thankful for today:

• I love that I am married to my best friend. Every day that I get to spend with my wonderful husband is a joy. I only hope that everyone can say the same thing one day.

• I am grateful that cancer taught me to be happy and open to new ideas and that something urged me to share what I was learning with others. I get more joy from sharing healthy ideas with others than I ever expected.

• Masi was running through the house today with his little brother and I could almost feel my heart melt. It is beyond wonderful to have my little grey fuzzy angel returning to his old self.

• My husband made me so happy today, though that wasn’t his intention. Someone in his office came home from the ocean with taffy for the office. Dan read the ingredients and put a little sticky note on the box. You have no idea how happy I was when he told me about this. It is amazing to me that Dan really understands nutrition since he only gets the “cliff notes” from me. :-)

• Today I watched a short (less than an hour) piece on Netflix regarding the connection between stress and health. If you are interested check it out, it is called “The Science of Healing with Dr. Esther Sternberg”. I think you will find it very uplifting and encouraging.

• Today should have been a productive day for me because I have so many things on my to-do list. However instead I decided to take it easy for a while today. Some days it is better to relax and kick back than it is to be productive. I am happy that I have learned to listen to my body and do what feels right since I spent far too many years running myself into the ground.

Signing out:

I need to make something for dinner and right now I have no idea what that is. Hopefully I get inspired when I open the refrigerator. :-) Talk to you again soon.


  1. I take the blame for Fat Head - sorry!

  2. I love LOVE that Ford quote. I believe it is 100% true. Also, thanks for the congee. I've made it the regular way in the past and am looking forward to doing it this - better - way. It is the perfect breakfast. Like a savory oatmeal.

  3. Gloria,

    Please don't be sorry. I could have stopped watching it but I choose to see the entire film. I also read books that I know I am not going to agree with just to be sure that I haven't missed anything important. ;-)

    enjoy your evening,

  4. Megan,

    Nice to know I am not the only one who likes that quote. :-) I agree with you I believe it is true.

    This method for congee was so quick and it would have been enough for breakfast all week. In fact this is what I had for breakfast today. You are right, very much like savory oatmeal. You could flavor it with nutritional yeast if you wanted a "cheezy" version.


  5. Ali, I'm interested in what you feel about fats generally.

    I know you don't add fat to your cooking but eat nuts etc. and occasionally coconut milk, but I have read that fat is essential to good health, particularly brain health and particular for people who are on vegan diets.

    Obviously not all fats are equal. I've just bought a tub of ridiculously expensive coconut oil because I've heard good things about it.

    Could you maybe cover this in a future post? Thanks :)

  6. Carol,

    That is a great question since everyone is confused about fats. I will try to get to that one day this week. Thanks for the suggestion. :-)



Related Posts with Thumbnails